For the latest example of how Boston comedy has risen over the past few years, one only needs to look at the city’s annual music festival, Boston Calling.
In spring 2016, the fest expanded its previously “music only” lineup to feature a comedy stage, safely tucked away in one of the far corners of City Hall Plaza’s brutalist structure. The stage was hosted by hometown comic Lamont Price, who put together a lineup featuring some of the best in town, like Kelly MacFarland, Ken Reid, and Orlando Baxter.
Last month, as Boston Calling relocated to the less-confined Harvard Athletic Grounds, its expanded lineup of music, food, and festival acreage also included a significant investment in comedy. Dubbed a “Comedy Experience” and hosted by Hannibal Buress, the added-on component — replacing a postponed “Film Experience” curated by Natalie Portman — drew thousands to a jam-packed Bright-Landry Hockey Center. The arena where the Harvard men’s a women’s hockey teams take the ice was transformed into a cavernous comedy club.
And an open seat was hard to find.
“Obviously, this year, it was a much bigger deal,” Price tells Vanyaland. “They had already been in contact with Hannibal Burris, and Pete Holmes, and guys like that. I did help them with some other names, as well as the locals. I don’t really know the area [going into the fest]. I’m picturing like, ‘Oh, this will be dope. It’ll be indoors.’ Now they’ve got Hannibal and Pete Holmes and Eugene Mirman and stuff, they’re guaranteed to have a few hundred people in there. It’s gonna be sick. Really, I can’t wait for this. So, when I show up that day … they take us to the space, and I walk in, and I’m like, ‘Holy shit. This is a hockey arena.’ I expected like one, two hundred or four hundred people.
Turns out roughly 5,000 people rolled up.
Tonight, Price takes it back to the clubs as he brings his long-time trademark show, Comedy is King, to Hojoko in the Fenway. It’s a free show, and the start of some new comedy themes in the building that once hosted the uber-popular Grandma’s Basement back when it was doing business as a Howard Johnson. Joined by Kerryn Feehan and Jeff Hammel, along with music by The Vincent King Band, Price has set the stage for an amazing night of entertainment — which is fitting, since tonight’s show will also celebrate his birthday.
“There’s a lot of young talent coming out, and it’s just funny. I like seeing that, because then, that makes me nervous, it makes me motivated. I’ve got to be better, you know, so, that’s a really great thing.” — Lamont Price
Price has been a staple of the Boston comedy scene for years, and has seen comedians come and go throughout his career. And while the players may change, one thing remains consistent: Boston breeds incredible comedic talent, whether in a small club or larger stage.
“Boston’s always pumping out new and great acts,” he says. “It’s as good as it’s ever been, with the comic talent coming up. But when I’m home, performing, I don’t get out as much as I used to so I’m not as familiar with all the names… See, the clubs, it’s different now. It’s obviously different as The Comedy Connection moved to Wilbur, and so there’s not that guaranteed seven-night a week spot. Although, you still have the Comedy Studio, and Laugh Boston operates on like a thre-days-a-week, or four-days-a-week schedule.”
He adds: “And it’s not always stand up, but The Comedy Connection, that was something. That was such a great thing — seven nights a week of just stand up. Where you can always go check it out, or maybe, go get a set. But if there’s a good thing to not having sort of traditional clubs [that are] open seven days a week, all the time, there’s a lot of do-it-yourself’s popping up. Like McGreevy’s on Mondays and Tuesdays — that’s fun. And there’s a bunch of breweries that I didn’t even know existed before last year that have popped up and are doing stand up. And I feel like breweries are the Boston comedy now, where like, Chinese restaurants were 30 years ago.”
Price stresses, however, that the changing landscape of Boston comedy isn’t such a bad thing in that it ups the ante for local talent.
“I don’t know if I want to call it a revival, but, the one thing about clubs not being as prevalent on a day to day basis, as they once were, even as I started, is that it comedians, sort of… what do they call it? Boot straps, that kind of thing,” Price says. “So I’m seeing a lot of that. And the town, here, is as amazing as it’s ever been. There’s a lot of young talent coming out, and it’s just funny. I like seeing that, because then, that makes me nervous, it makes me motivated. I’ve got to be better, you know, so, that’s a really great thing.”
Price is a comedic force to be reckoned with, having been named one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch” and was invited to the prestigious Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival and Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival. He’s shared the stage with comedy powerhouses such as Pablo Francisco, Patrice O’Neal, Tommy Davidson and John Witherspoon, Bill Burr, and Rich Vos, and has performed at Stand-Up New York, Gotham Comedy Club (where he won the New York Underground Comedy Festival), and NY Comedy Club. Price also stars in Liquid Lunch Productions’ feature “Overserved”, an unapologetic comedy about working in a Boston bar.
Which makes him right at home at a place like Hojoko. Or, an at-capacity hockey arena.
COMEDY IS KING WITH LAMONT PRICE + KERRYN FEEHAN + JEFF HAMMEL + THE VINCENT KING BAND :: Monday, June 26 at Hojoko, 1271 Boylston St. in Boston, MA :: 8 p.m., all ages, free admission :: Facebook event page